On Sunday, Nov. 24, the GUSA Senate voted 17 to six to pass a resolution endorsing GU Fossil Free’s divestment proposal, “Divesting Georgetown’s Endowment from Fossil Fuels.” The proposal is the latest product of an almost year-long dialogue between administrators and the students of GU Fossil Free, and its successful marriage of the realities of the endowment with the moral imperative Georgetown has to divest deserves nothing less than GUSA’s support.
The proposal takes into consideration the difficulty of divesting the endowment from an entire industry, calling upon Georgetown to immediately freeze all new investments in the 200 companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves and to divest from direct holdings in these companies over the next two years. Considering that the bulk of GU’s endowment is invested in pooled funds run by third-party managers, it also proposes that the University ask its managers to filter these companies from their investments or leave the pooled investment funds as these mature. Moreover, it asks for transparency and accountability throughout the process in the form of biannual, public progress reports.
Divestment is the natural next step to Georgetown’s continued commitment to sustainability, as manifested in its efforts to reduce its emissions from 2006 levels by 50 percent by 2020. While it is certain that as an institution and as individuals we remain dependent on fossil fuel energy, it isn’t morally sound for us to profit from practices that we actively strive to overcome. Given the undeniable harms to which fossil fuels are tied, namely climate change and its adverse consequences for humankind, present and future, divestment is wholly consistent with Georgetown’s core values of justice, pursuit of the common good, and the cultivation of women and men for others.
Certainly, Georgetown’s mission is academically-oriented, and the endowment is a tool the University employs to grow institutionally and further scholarship. However, as GU Fossil Free points out in its references to multiple studies in the proposal, divestment poses little risk to the endowment. Divestment is a daunting task, but as the active discussions of the University’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility with GU Fossil Free shows, it is feasible so long as it is done in full consideration of the realities of investing an endowment and of University hierarchy. The tiered, long-term timeline is an example of the realism embraced by GU Fossil Free.
We applaud GUSA for backing this important initiative, and encourage every member of the University community to read through GU Fossil Free’s thoughtful, measured proposal. Unfortunately, the urgency of the threat posed by our addiction to fossil fuels is too great to forsake divestment for slow engagement of companies whose bottom-line is built on extracting an unsustainable amount of carbon. The time to act is now, and, as GU Fossil Free puts it, all Hoyas have a stake in putting Georgetown “on the right side of history.”